I have a friend who did not call me after my mother died. A few
weeks later I asked her why she never acknowledged my mother's death. She responded that she didn't want to bring up a painful
subject. She thought it would hurt me too much. This is a common misconception about grief, especially because my friend had
not yet experienced the death of a parent.
I told her that I needed to talk about my loss because I was
grieving the death of the most important woman in my life. She thanked me, apologized, and seemed relieved that we had the
conversation. She became a more supportive friend from that point forward. If I had said nothing, my anger at her seeming
indifference to my pain would have smoldered into resentment and I would have lost a friendship.
If you are grieving
the death of a loved one, you may have noticed that your friends have either stopped calling, or act like nothing has
happened when they do communicate. Sometimes this means they don't know what to do for you, other times it indicates insensitivity
to the loss. It is also possible that they are in their own emotional turmoil and have nothing to give you right now.
Usually when others ignore our pain, or disregard the events of our past that are precious to us, we go along with it without
protest. After all, we don't want to make waves, whine, complain, or otherwise cause trouble in our relationships. But by
not protesting, we play a role in casting aside our own grief and life experiences.
My mother was old when she
died, but that doesn't mean I cast aside my grief and miss her less. My mother and father are dead, but that doesn't mean
I never had a mother and father. I don't want to be treated like an orphan, or worse, like my parents never existed.
If you feel your friends are ignoring you, or dismissing your sadness as trivial, speak up! They can't read your mind. Be
direct and let people know what is helpful and what is not. Tell them that you are hurting, and that talking about the loss
is very important to you. Someone you love has died and you are grieving. Do not cast your grief aside. Remember, too, that
you have limited energy right now. Please don't waste it on dismissive or unhelpful people.
can hurt you unknowingly with their words. Phrases such as "Keep your chin up" or "Get on with your life"
diminish your significant loss. People offer tired clichés most often because they don't know what else to say. Commit
this response to memory and use it the next time someone tries to "comfort" you by casting your grief aside: "I
am sure you are trying to be helpful, but I don't find your words supportive because____________."
those who really care about you, will thank you for your honesty and be relieved that you gave them some direction on how
to help you. Treasure their friendships and use them for valuable support. "Fair weather friends" will get defensive
I do not think I am unique in my grief. My pain is not greater than anyone else's pain. Loss is
part of the human condition and all grievers hurt. As I quote on the page about helping others, grief
takes turns. Last year, it was my turn. This year it may be
yours. We have a responsibility to care for one another. I do believe, however, that grief does not, and should not, diminish
us as people. I propose that sorrow makes us more human, not less human.
Never apologize for
your sadness because grief is the expression of your love for the dear one who has died. Friends should not cast aside
the painful things that have happened to you, as if they never happened. Every loss has shaped you into the person you are
today. No one can take your experiences and memories from you--and if they try, protest.
Go to next page: When Does the Grieving End?